Sustrans is gearing up for the official opening of the Two Tunnels Greenway on a former railway line in Bath in less than a fortnight’s time, 50 years after Dr Richard Beeching’s report, The Reshaping of Britain’s Railways, led to the closure of the former Somerset & Dorset railway track in 1966.
The four-mile long walking and cycling route between Bath and Midford includes what will be Britain’s longest cycling tunnel, the Combe Down Tunnel, and has been jointly developed by the sustainable transport charity and Bath and North East Somerset Council.
Last weekend, road.cc’s own Dave Atkinson popped along to see how things are shaping up, and says: "We're really looking forward to the tunnels opening, not least because for three of us it's another option for commuting into the office.
“The surfacing and the new bridges have transformed Linear Park into a genuinely useful traffic-free route even without the tunnels themselves, but it'll be a real experience to cycle out to Midford for the first time.
"I haven't actually been inside the tunnels yet, Tony went through a few years back before work started, and we had a sneaky peek through the gates when we were planting around the Devonshire Tunnel entrance over the weekend,” adds Dave.
“The low-level light gives them a really nice ambience; the ceiling is kept dark because of the bats but there's plenty of light to see by. With the two tunnels, totalling 2km, and the secluded Lyncombe Vale separating them, it'll be a fantastic way to get in and out of the city."
One of the people involved in the long-running campaign to get the tunnels put back into use is John Sawyer, who worked as a fireman on the old Dorset & Somerset line prior to its closure, and who is also a keen cyclist.
“Working on the railway for five years was a tough old job, but I was devastated when the line closed as a result of the Beeching Report. I loved the life I had while I was working on the railway.
“It has been great to be involved in the Two Tunnels Greenway opening, and the route looks amazing. I’m so passionate about this historic line, and it has been a privilege to watch its transformation and see the tunnels take on a new lease of life.”
Malcolm Shepherd, chief executive of Sustrans, added: “The Two Tunnels Greenway is a great example of how disused railway lines can be revived as vital transport links.
“Sustrans is delighted to have created Britain’s longest cycling tunnel – it will connect local communities and help people be more active as they get around.
“Across the country we need safer routes for walking and cycling and a fresh approach to public transport to make us less reliant on increasingly expensive car use.”
You can find out more information on the party planned for the official opening of the route on Saturday 6 April on the event’s Facebook page.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.